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Recap / Doctor Who S14 E1 "The Masque of Mandragora"

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The Doctor: Humans have got such limited little minds. I don't know why I like you so much.
Sarah Jane Smith: Because you have such good taste.
The Doctor: That's true. That's very true.

The one with the evil spotlight... in the Village!

Written by Louis Marks. This four-episode serial first aired from September 4—25, 1976.

The Doctor is giving Sarah Jane a tour of the TARDIS and they come across a fabulously wonderful new console room, in which they decide to stay in. The TARDIS then pitches up in Renaissance Italy (well alright, in Portmeirion), having had an encounter en route with a fizzy ball of energy that the Doctor calls the Mandragora Helix. He hasn't realised that he's brought it with him (since he rather stupidly left the door open), and when it escapes from the TARDIS and begins taking over or killing the locals, he follows.

The energy finds an underground temple and takes over the Cult of Demnos, which is led by court astrologer Hieronymous. It instructs them to prepare the way for Mandragora's full appearance. However, the astrologer himself is a pawn in political intrigues between Count Federico and his nephew, Duke Giuliano. Giuliano has just acceded to the Duchy of San Martino (after the last Duke rather mysteriously came down with a case of death) and a grand Masque will be held in honour. Giuliano and his companion Marco hope to prove that Hieronymous is a charlatan. Meanwhile, the Doctor is sidetracked by almost being executed and steals a few horses, and Sarah Jane is kidnapped and hypnotized by the cult.


During the dance, the Cult of Demnos attack the court and kill many, while Hieronymous — now unified with the Mandragora Helix — confronts the Doctor in the underground temple. Attempting to blast the Doctor with pure Mandragora energy, he is foiled when the Doctor reveals he has earthed both himself (with some iron armor) and the altar: the energy is drained off and the Earth is safe.

Also, Sarah becomes the first companion to question how come she can understand and be understood when the locals must all be speaking Italian. The Doctor says it's a "Time Lord gift", and it's later explained that it's done telepathically via the TARDIS.



  • All Prophecies Are True: Hieronymous predicts the death of the previous ruler with uncanny accuracy. And so he should, as Federico has poisoned him. When Federico decides that it's Giuliano's time to go, he orders Hieronymous to make another death prediction, mocking the astrologer when he insists his prognostications are real. His cult is able to accurately predict Sarah Jane Smith turning up, so it's implied they do have some ability, presumably assisted by Mandragora.
  • Animal Motifs: The Fourth Doctor is associated with the lion, with a nice scene of him making the 'rampant' pose from heraldry while wearing a lion mask. He has a mane of hair, a powerful deep 'roaring' voice, big teeth and plenty of regal charisma. There may also be an allusion to his Britishness - a lion appears on the British Royal Family's crest, and the Doctor's line while playing the lion is Remember the French at Agincourt! (a battle they lost to the British).
  • Author Appeal: Louis Marks had been an academic historian before he became a writer. His specialist subject? Renaissance Italy.
  • Artistic Licence – History: Giuliano explains to Sarah his theory that the world is in fact round and not flat and that other scientists have started to accept this theory, repeating the common historical misconception that people living before 1492 thought the world was flat.
  • Astrologer: Hieronymous.
  • Beard of Evil: Hieronymous has a glorious beard.
  • Black Cloak: The cultists wear these, but Hieronymous opts for the purple pimp cloak and gold bling medallion seen in the image above.
  • The Blank: Hieronymous, after absorbing the Mandragora Helix.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Giuliano and Federico both get wounded in swordfights, but not a drop of blood in sight. In Giuliano's case the Doctor even says he has to bandage him to stop the bleeding.
  • Blue Blood: The Duke and his uncle the Count.
  • Bound and Gagged: Sarah Jane.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Sarah Jane.
  • %Chosen One:
  • Chromosome Casting: Sarah is the only female character in the story.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Marco holds out a long while, but later admits to Giuliano he was forced to make a false confession.
  • Cool Mask: The cultists' gilded masks, especially the one Hieronymous wears.
  • Continuity Nod: In the console room, the Doctor dusts with a frilly white undershirt like those worn by the Third Doctor, and Sarah picks up a recorder like the one played by the Second Doctor.
  • Corpsing: During filming, Tom Baker apparently made himself a nuisance by messing around off-camera in order to make Tim Piggot-Smith (as Marco) crack up during his torture scene.
  • Cult: The Cult of Demnos. It's even baked into the name!
  • Damsel in Distress: Three guesses who, given there's only one damsel in the entirety of the main cast (excluding dancers at the Masque)
  • Dragon with an Agenda: Hieronymous.
  • Dramatic Unmask: Federico gets quite a shock when he rips off Hieronymous' mask.
  • Energy Beings: The Mandragora Helix.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Oh, Hieronymous...
  • Evil Laugh: The Helix does this, often when there is no other sign of its presence.
  • Evil Uncle: Count Federico.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Giuliano and Marco, although the "heterosexual" is seriously debatable.
  • Human Sacrifice: Sarah Jane is nearly sacrificed by the Cult of Demnos.
  • Land in the Saddle: The Doctor jumps from the execution platform onto one of the guards' horses, shoves that guard out of the saddle, and takes off galloping.
  • Locked in the Dungeon: First Marco is locked in the dungeon, later on the Doctor, Sarah Jane and Giuliano join in on the fun.
  • Malevolent Masked Men: the Cult of Demnos.
  • Masquerade Ball: The Cult of Demnos takes advantage of Giuliano's swanky ascension party to conceal themselves in Part 4.
  • The Mole: Sarah Jane is hypnotized into doing this.
  • Not Herself/Out-of-Character Alert: The Doctor knows Sarah has been taken over... because she's the first companion to ask how come she can understand people who speak other languages. Err, right...
    • It makes sense. Sarah had been travelling with the Doctor for so long, if she was going to ask how she can understand people who speak other languages, she would have done it long before now.
  • Off with His Head!: The Doctor finds himself with his neck on the executioner's block in one cliffhanger.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: Sarah calls the Doctor out for this, telling him she knows when the situation has gotten apocalyptic because his jokes get more strained.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: The late duke.
  • Rebuilt Set: The serial introduces a Victorian-style "secondary control room" for the TARDIS, based around wooden panelling and copper metalwork, which managed to be totally Steampunk a good twenty years before the first stirrings of the movement. This tied into the "Hammer Horror" theme of the period. It was used for the whole of the season, but was unfortunately damaged beyond repair in storage afterwards, leading to a return to the old set.
  • Religion of Evil: The Cult of Demnos.
  • Royally Screwed Up: Count Federico. He has Giuliano's father killed to bring him one step closer to becoming the Duke of San Martino, but ends up being unable to have Giuliano assassinated.
  • Secret Circle of Secrets: The Cult of Demnos.
  • Sequel Hook: The story ends with the Doctor revealing that the astronomical alignment that allowed Mandragora to attack Earth will recur towards the end of the twentieth century. This was not pursued in TV continuity, though several Expanded Universe continuities have picked it up.
  • Smug Snake: Both Federico and Hieronymous are arrogant would-be tyrants, but both are also convinced that they have more control over the situation than they do. Federico is so consumed with his schemes to overthrow his nephew that he ignores the real threat (the Cult of Demnos and the Helix) until it's too late; similarly, Hieronymous is a deluded fraud trapped by superstition and seduced by dreams of glory who ends up utterly consumed by the Helix.
  • The Starscream: Federico thinks Hieronymous is his loyal (but despised) underling. Hieronymous has other ideas.
  • Swirly Energy Thingy: The Helix itself.
  • Sword Fight: The Doctor merrily joins in.
  • Tap on the Head: When the Doctor realizes that Sarah Jane is being kidnapped and tries to intervene, a goon takes him out with a rock to his head.
  • Targeted Human Sacrifice: Sarah Jane, who was apparently predicted to turn up.
  • Translator Microbes
  • Trrrilling Rrrs: "Hieronymous! You trrrrrrrraitor"!
  • Unnecessarily Large Interior: Sarah Jane stumbles upon the Doctor's "boot cupboard", a massive room which has one pair of boots in it. When Sarah points out how absurdly large it is, the Doctor replies, "I've seen bigger boot cupboards." To add even more insult to injury, green carpet, part of a fireplace and a portrait on the wall can be seen through the door. Evidently, it's meant be to be a living room, but the Doctor decided to put shoes in it instead.
  • Unwilling Suspension: Marco is hung by his wrists while he's being tortured.
  • When the Planets Align: Hieronymous invokes this. He even appears to believe it.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Averted; Federico thinks the Doctor is a spy and orders him taken out and executed.
  • The Wise Prince: Giuliano.
  • The X of Y